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Heinrich urges votes on election security bills

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week for blocking legislation he said would protect elections from foreign interference.

He called on the Republican senator from Kentucky to allow votes on legislation following testimony by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the release of Mueller’s report detailing intervention by Russia in the 2016 presidential election.

“We can act now in advance of the 2020 elections. We can deter Russia’s aggression. We can act now to protect free and fair elections – or we can simply stand down and hope for the best,” the second-term Democrat said. “This is at the heart of what a thriving democracy is all about. And, I would hope that we would not stand down, not let Vladimir Putin have his way in 2020, and stand up for free and fair elections – regardless of who wins them.”

Heinrich said McConnell’s blocking of the legislation came as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a report on Russia’s effort attacking the U.S. election infrastructure during the 2016 election. He is a member of the committee.

According to CBS News, McConnell calls the legislation “partisan” and said the Trump administration has already acted to secure the nation’s elections.

One bill McConnell objected to would have both required the use of paper ballots and provided funding for the Election Assistance Commission, CBS news said. He also objected to legislation that would have required campaigns and candidates to report offers of election-related aid from foreign governments.

PUSH FOR CAMPAIGN FINANCE AMENDMENT: Heinrich and U.S. Sen. Tom Udall joined with other Democratic senators last week in unveiling a proposed Constitutional amendment called “Democracy for All.”

Udall introduced the proposal with U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., which they said would overturn Citizens United v. FEC and other court decisions they labeled “disastrous.” They said the amendment would help get big money out of politics, and put power back in the hands of the American people.

“Thanks to Citizens United and other disastrous court decisions, our electoral system – and as a result, our democracy – have reached a crisis point,” Udall said. “Ever since the Supreme Court ruled to open the floodgates for unlimited corporate spending in our elections, secret special interest money has poured in – and drowned out the voices of the American people. And the door has opened even wider for the ultra-wealthy and well-connected to root themselves in our government and pull the levers of our democracy.”

The amendment would allow Congress and states to regulate and set limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others trying to influence elections. The Democratic senators claim it would not infringe on the freedom of the press or other actions protected by the First Amendment.

FUNDING FOR SMALL BUSINESSES: Udall and Heinrich announced two New Mexico businesses were awarded $2.1 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer to support research and development and advance innovation.

Mesa Photonics LLC and Woodruff Scientific Inc., both based in Santa Fe, were awarded $1.1 million and $1 million, respectively. The funding will allow Mesa Photonics to develop high-precision instruments to lower the cost of telecommunications and technology development. Woodruff Scientific will use the funds to develop virtual reality and augmented reality devices that allow new methods for data visualization and collaboration in science and engineering.

“Small businesses like Mesa Photonics and Woodruff Scientific strengthen our communities by creating jobs and driving our economy into the future – their work is a great example of New Mexico’s leadership in emerging and innovative technologies,” Udall said in a release.

“As an engineer, I appreciate the value of emerging technologies,” Heinrich added. “New Mexico can tap into the extraordinary research and development that is already being conducted in our backyard by supporting creative, homegrown companies.”